Cannibal Apocalypse (1980) poster

Cannibal Apocalypse (1980)


aka Cannibals in the Streets; Invasion of the Flesh Hunters; Savage Apocalypse; The Slaughterers; Virus

(Apocalisse Domani)

Italy. 1980.


Director – Anthony M. Dawson [Antonio Margheriti], Screenplay – Dawson & Jimmy Gould [Dardano Sacchetti], Story – Gould, Producer – Maurizio & Sandro Amati, Photography – Fernando Arribai, Music – Alexander Blonksteiner, Special Effects – Bob Shelley, Makeup Effects – Giannetto de Rossi, Art Direction – Walter Patriarca. Production Company – New Frida Organization/Jose Frade Production.


John Saxon (Captain Norman Hopper), Elizabeth Turner (Jane Hopper), John Morghen (Charlie Bukowski)


During the Vietnam War, Green Beret Captain Norman Hopper leads a mission into a North Vietnamese village to rescue two of his men, only to find them eating human body parts. Back in the USA, the two men are placed in a hospital for nervous disorders. Hopper is called in after one of the men Charlie Bukowski is released and then goes on a crazed killing spree, biting people. Bukowski is infected with a virus that causes the infectee to become a cannibal. The virus spreads throughout the city, causing all those bitten by Bukowski to become cannibals as well.

The Italian zombie and cannibal film is a subgenre, which, like the culinary penchant for extremely hot curries or chilli dishes, is very much an acquired taste and one whose extremes often cause lesser mortals to quail. There is probably no other period in horror cinema that has pushed extremes as much as the Italian cannibal film fad did during the late 1970s/early 80s. The Italian cannibal subgenre began with Deep River Savages/The Man from Deep River (1972) and saw such notorious examples as Cannibal Holocaust (1979) and Cannibal Ferox (1981). This was superseded following by the success of George Romero’s Dawn of the Dead (1978), which created dozens of Italian imitators that pushed the zombie film to gore-drenched extremes.

Cannibal Apocalypse a routine entry that attempts to blend the two themes. The inspiration for the film seems to have come from someone seeing Dawn of the Dead and Apocalypse Now (1979) one after the other – both films were released around the same time. However, Cannibal Apocalypse never amounts to anything more than its novelty concept of having cannibalistic Vietnam veterans. The metaphors that underline many of the Italian cannibal films about primitive tribes coming to literally devour Western society could have been used to potently echo the American Vietnam guilt and denial trip – but Antonio Margheriti misses such ripe subtext by miles. Even the zombie/cannibals are not particularly interesting – they are too human in personality and seem to shoot people more than they ever eat them.

John Morghen (r) forced to eat human flesh while a prisoner during the Vietnam War in Cannibal Apocalypse (1980)
John Morghen (r) forced to eat human flesh while a prisoner during the Vietnam War

Cannibal Apocalypse is a competently directed film, although Antonio Margheriti, an Italian exploitation director whose career stretched between the 1950s and the 2000s, has made far better. Certainly, Margheriti does not falter when it comes to depicting gore, the film having some most convincing chunk-blowings and splatterings. There is one particularly good effect where John Morghen is dispatched and ends up hanging onto a grille with a hole blown through his stomach where people can be seen moving on the other side.

Antonio Margheriti’s other genre films are:- the space opera Assignment Outer Space (1960), the space opera Battle of the Worlds (1961), the Gothic The Virgin of Nuremberg (1963), the Gothic Castle of Blood (1964), the peplum Devil Against the Son of Hercules (1964), the peplum Hercules, Prisoner of Evil (1964), the Gothic The Long Hair of Death (1964), War of the Planets (1965), the space opera The Wild, Wild Planet (1965), the spy film Lightning Bolt (1966), the space opera War Between the Planets (1966), the space opera The Snow Devils (1967), the giallo The Young, The Evil and the Savage (1968), the giallo The Unnaturals (1969), the invisibility comedy Mister Superinvisible (1970), the Gothic Web of the Spider (1971), the giallo Seven Dead in the Cat’s Eye (1973), the gonzo Western comedy Whiskey and Ghosts (1976), the adventure film Hunters of the Golden Cobra (1982), the post-holocaust barbarian film Yor, The Hunter from the Future (1983), the adventure film The Ark of the Sun God (1984), Treasure Island in Outer Space (mini-series, 1987), the alien nasty film Alien from the Deep (1989) and the sf/action film Virtual Weapon/Cyberflic (1997).

Trailer here

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